Safeguarding considerations - coronavirus info for professionalsPublished Date: 10 Jul 2020
At this time, deaf children and young people are more likely to be using social media and virtual communication to keep in touch with others. This will be an important way of helping deaf children and young people to feel less isolated and to support their wellbeing. Now is a good time to remind deaf children and young people how to keep themselves safe online.
- Flyer for secondary-aged deaf young people
- Information for parents about online safety
- Resources for professionals
Whilst professionals may need to be flexible in how they keep in touch with families and deaf young people at this challenging time, there are a number of safeguarding and data protection issues that you will need to consider. These are to protect not only the deaf young person and their family, but also yourself from any misunderstandings or unfounded allegations.
You should always refer to the safeguarding lead for your setting, service or local authority for any specific advice or queries.
Factors to consider
In many cases, services or schools will be using video software like Skype or Zoom to keep in touch with deaf children and their families. You should ensure, as much as possible, that all such virtual conversations take place in a communal space (i.e. not in a child’s bedroom) and with other family members present. In line with your usual practice, you should ensure there is transparency about when any such virtual conversations are taking place and that these are pre-arranged with the family so that all participants are ready and able to take part effectively.
Separately, we have been asked about the use of WhatsApp. WhatsApp is becoming a widely used tool for keeping in touch with either parent carers and/or deaf young people. However, it is not without its safeguarding or data protection risks. In particular, WhatsApp is not designed for ‘business’ use and will not fully comply with data protection requirements.
We advise against using WhatsApp, but if they are using it, professionals will need to consider how to mitigate such risks and whether alternative means of keeping in touch with families should be used. Specific issues to take into account when using WhatsApp with deaf children and young people include:
- You must have consent to contact the family in this way. As above, we advise against using WhatsApp as a means to contact families and deaf young people, but if you are doing so you must have the adult’s consent and/or parental consent for any under 18-year-old to do this, as well as your manager’s and organisation’s explicit and written consent to do so.
- Where appropriate, and taking into account issues around confidentiality, use group chat instead of individual conversations. For example, you could add a colleague or a parent to any conversations you’re having.
- In line with usual safeguarding requirements, you should never use your personal mobile phone or give out your personal number to others. You should also never create or record any images of any individuals.
In light of the above, you should consider alternatives (such as private/closed Facebook groups) for conversations with families in line with the policy and procedures of your setting or service.
The Government in England has produced guidance for professionals on safeguarding and remote education. The Welsh Government has also produced guidance for education providers whilst Social Care Wales has provided guidance for social workers.